From the ashes of Universal’s failed Dark Universe comes a standalone story based on the original Invisible Man created by H.G. Wells. It’s interesting to follow the development of this film, as the original lead actor attached was Johnny Depp with a concept similar to the iconic 1930’s film. However, with the mixed reception of Dracula Untold and the poor reception of The Mummy, Universal ventured to instead produce modern reboots of each character without the shared universe component. With the consistently successful studio Blumhouse taking on the film, The Invisible Man was redone with a new concept starring Elisabeth Moss with directorial duties given to Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Saw, Insidious).
In this interpretation, we focus on Moss’ character, Cecilia, as she escapes a domestic abuser in the form of her partner and brilliant tech CEO Adrian Griffin. This is a nice call-back to the original character who was named Griffin and a scientist conducting optics research resulting in the process which turns him invisible. Once she leaves her abuser, Adrian mysteriously dies before several unexplainable situations occur. This sends our protagonist on a physical and mental journey as those unaware simply deem her insane.
Without spoiling the rest of the story, I found the manipulation and abuse suffered by Cecilia to be something told but never felt. It made it hard to truly understand how evil Adrian was without her or another character saying he’s an evil and narcissistic individual. The film itself is well-paced and thrilling even if you expect the “Invisible Man” to appear, making it worth the $20 price tag on VOD services if you’d like to watch at home.
The biggest issue I had while watching was Cecilia’s actions during pivotal moments. For example, after nobody believes her claims of Adrian becoming invisible, she finds proof yet never attempts to take photographs or a video that she could share with authorities or her friends. While her close friend and cop James discovers the suit anyways, him learning the truth from her vs how he does changes very little. It’s a minor issue so that being my biggest nitpick is a good thing for viewers wanting to watch a well-written film.
Outside of Moss’ performance, other actors weren’t offered much to chew on. This film knew its main character and committed to her story. It’s not a negative aspect by any means and helps the narrative stay on track vs a film attempting to balance a main narrative with various subplots. Her acting range for emotional moments is well-known and she once again proves her supporters right.
I must credit the execution by director Leigh Whannell because this film could have easily become a victim of over-ambition like The Mummy reboot. Instead, the story works well not only as a standalone but also as a starting point for multiple sequels or spin-offs. The action isn’t overdone and impressive with a focus on intimate shots before the big reveal. A must-see moment is the fight sequence between Adrian, Cecilia, and several guards at the mental hospital.
The visual effects were minimal for this film, which I think helped provide as realistic a portrayal of an invisible man. Overall, this was an excellent reboot for the Universal Monsters roster, and I hope they make a sequel within the same shared universe under Blumhouse. If they don’t, I at least hope the intimate narrative approach is repeated instead of making a film such as Dracula or the Wolfman a blockbuster epic.